Tennessee Governor Proposes Legislation to Bolster School Security

The legislation would place an armed security officer at every public school, boost physical security at public and private schools, and provide additional mental health resources.

Tennessee Governor Proposes Legislation to Bolster School Security

Photo via Adobe, by andreykr

Nashville, Tennessee – Only a week after last month’s mass shooting at a Nashville school that killed three students and three adult staff members, Tennessee Governor Bill Lee introduced legislation to bolster security at schools in the state.

“These measures include enhanced legislation and funding to place an armed security guard at every Tennessee public school, boost physical school security at public and private schools, and provide additional mental health resources for Tennesseans,” the governor’s office said in a press release.

The legislation:

  • “Enacts a multi-tiered accountability plan to ensure exterior school doors are locked while students are present, with opportunities for corrective action. State and local law enforcement will be authorized to check for unlocked doors
  • “Requires that private security guards are held to a high standard and receive active shooter training prior to being posted at Tennessee schools
  • “Requires every school district to establish threat assessment teams, a nationally recognized best practice to ensure students are connected to support services and behavioral health professionals, when appropriate
  • “Requires every public and private school to develop annual safety plans, which must include a newly required incident command drill for school leaders and law enforcement to prepare for what to expect in various emergencies.”

The fiscal year 2023-2024 budget proposal includes:

  • $30 million to expand a statewide homeland security network with 122 agents serving students at both public and private schools
  • $140 million to establish a School Resource Officer (SRO) grant fund to place a trained, armed security guard at every public school
  • $20 million for public school security upgrades
  • $7 million for private school security upgrades
  • $8 million for additional school-based behavioral health liaisons across the state

A separate bill would allow private schools to hire SROs, reports WCYB. However, local law enforcement agencies told the TV station that the current labor shortage would make that task extremely challenging. Even if the money were available, those agencies don’t have enough personnel to fill all of the positions. For example, one agency contacted by WCYB is already struggling to find enough SROs for all of its public schools. Additionally, state funding only covers a fraction of the cost of an SRO.

The state of Tennessee isn’t the only government agency increasing its investment in school security after a campus shooting. In Iowa, the Des Moines School Board unanimously approved doubling K-12 campus security spending to $13 million, reports the Des Moines Register. In January two teen students and a male adult were killed in a school shooting that happened at one of the city’s alternative educational programs.

The Des Moines School Board’s proposed budget includes $5.85 million for metal detectors, safety equipment, and patrol vehicles. Approximately $5.84 million will be for four public safety patrol officers, a dispatcher, and ten more campus monitors. More than $300,000 will be for training.

The board also wants to more than triple the district’s cybersecurity budget. The proposed increase is in response to a cybersecurity issue that forced the district to cancel classes in January.

About $3 million in federal COVID relief funds could cover some of the upgrades.

Tennessee and Des Moines join a long list of school districts and college campuses upgrading their security. On Tuesday, Campus Safety covered the upgrades being implemented at four Atlanta-based  Historically Black Colleges and Universities, as well as districts in Charles County, Maryland and Laredo, Texas.

If you appreciated this article and want to receive more valuable industry content like this, click here to sign up for our FREE digital newsletters!

About the Author

Robin Hattersley Gray

Robin has been covering the security and campus law enforcement industries since 1998 and is a specialist in school, university and hospital security, public safety and emergency management, as well as emerging technologies and systems integration. She joined CS in 2005 and has authored award-winning editorial on campus law enforcement and security funding, officer recruitment and retention, access control, IP video, network integration, event management, crime trends, the Clery Act, Title IX compliance, sexual assault, dating abuse, emergency communications, incident management software and more. Robin has been featured on national and local media outlets and was formerly associate editor for the trade publication Security Sales & Integration. She obtained her undergraduate degree in history from California State University, Long Beach.

Leading in Turbulent Times: Effective Campus Public Safety Leadership for the 21st Century

This new webcast will discuss how campus public safety leaders can effectively incorporate Clery Act, Title IX, customer service, “helicopter” parents, emergency notification, town-gown relationships, brand management, Greek Life, student recruitment, faculty, and more into their roles and develop the necessary skills to successfully lead their departments. Register today to attend this free webcast!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Get Our Newsletters
Campus Safety HQ